Nicola Paviglianiti is outside helping a boy who is bench pressing a weight bar. She is wearing black exercise clothes and a black and red cap.

Nicola Paviglianiti. Team Canada Powerlifter, Lift4Life Programme Coordinator

The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Nicola Paviglianiti from Lift4Life to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.

#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?

Nicola Paviglianiti: Using the sport of powerlifting, I am striving to solve gender inequality as well as health disparities, both locally in Canada and in communities abroad.

#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?

NP: In 2017 I pursued my Master’s Degree in International Humanitarian Aid. I conducted my thesis research in Zimbabwe, studying how grassroots weightlifting activities may be used to address humanitarian needs. My research findings sparked my realization of the potential of powerlifting to support marginalized communities and foster the empowerment of women. I have been putting my research into action ever since. There is something special about lifting a heavy weight you never thought you could lift, which translates to life and achieving what you never knew you could achieve.

#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?

NP: The biggest obstacle was overcoming ideas that women are not capable of being strong. As a petite female, people often refused to believe me when I told them the weights I could lift, and I found myself constantly having to prove myself. I had to lead by example to demonstrate that powerlifting is an activity that all people can do, regardless of gender, age and size. Strength is for everyone.

#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?

NP: My inspiration comes from the “champions” I meet all around me, who continue to teach me that strength comes in many shapes and forms.  From a lifter who gets under the barbell to lift a weight, despite doubts and insecurities, to others all over the world who continue to break boundaries and barriers to go for their gold and follow their dreams.

#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?

NP: I hope that young women are inspired to find and unleash their own inner strength, embrace their talents and passions and leave their own positive legacy in their communities.

#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?

NP: Women in innovation are important in order to boldly transform our world. Never underestimate the power of many women taking small actions that, put together, make a large difference. Just as adding a little bit of weight to the bar, week after week, leads to a significantly larger total.

Follow Nicola Paviglianiti on: Instagram and LinkedIn.

Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.